Batter my heart, three-personed God by John Doane
BATTER MY HEART, THREE-PERSONED GOD
November 23, 2015
“Batter my heart, three-personed God” is a short poem made up of fourteen lines; also known as a sonnet. John Donne wrote this poem between 1609 and 1611. During this time, two types of sonnets were especially famous. The first one was the Shakespearean or English sonnet. The Italian or “Petrarchan sonnet” was the other common type of sonnets during this period. This paper summarizes and critically analyzes John Donne’s work.
In this work, the poet requests God to intensify the efforts to reinstate his soul. In the work, the speaker refers to God as three persons in one; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He implies that the gentle knocking is not sufficient, and God should aggressively storm into his heart. The author wants the three-personed God to come into his life in a cruel way rather than the compassionate way he was used to. Further down the poem, the speaker likens himself to a besieged town. The turning point in the poem comes about when the speaker admits his close relation to the enemy; probably Satan, yet he wants God into his life. Donne then asks God to break the ties he has with Satan and make him, his [God] slave, for only then can he be free 4.
John, in his “holy sonnets,” blends elements of both the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean sonnets. In this particular work, he starts with the typical Italian rhyme pattern abba abba, but his couplet rhyme in the third quatrain diverts into the Shakespearean rhyme pattern cdcd cc to conclude the poem. In line one, the poet is asking God to elevate the magnitude of his divine might to take over the speaker’s soul. The phrase “Batter my heart” metaphorically implies that the poet wants God to use brute force to get into his heart and occupy it. That far, God had simply been merciful and gentle in his quest to get into his heart and repair it. Donne carefully selects his words to reinforce the point he wants to get across in this second line. He uses the word “knocking” when God can be breaking, “breathing” when the Holy Spirit could be blowing harshly and “shining” when God the father could be burning. In lines three and four, one finally gets a better idea of exactly what the speaker wants God to do to him. In these lines, it seems that the speaker wants God to overthrow forcefully and make him new. The lines may be interpreted to mean that the speaker is of the opinion that his soul is very damaged and needs complete repair. From the same lines, the poet also seems to be aware of the fact that for a Christian to be deserving of happy life after death, he has to withstand the tribulations of the worldly life.
The second Quatrain starts with a metaphor relating to a “usurped” or seized town. The idea of captured city gives the reader an idea of what inspired the poet’s choice of the word “batter”. John makes use of a simile to liken him to a “usurped town” attempting to allow God into its system. The second line of the Quatrain shows the audience that the speaker is saddened by his numerous futile attempts to let God into his life. Further down to line seven, John Donne poetically personifies reason as God’s viceroy in his ‘town.’ He appreciates that reasoning is vital because God gave it to humans to protect themselves against satanic temptations. Still on the same line, the speaker interestingly uses the word “me” twice. This repetition shows just how egotistic the poet is. In the next line, the poet is most likely lamenting about how the reason he talked about in the previous line, has been unreliable in its role to protect him from evil. This quatrain ends in a direct line that states how much the poet loves God/
From line 10, the speaker is asking God to detach him from his sinful nature and help him break the pact that he has with the devil. In the last couplet, he demonstrates his appreciation for the paradox of faith. He says that he can only be free if the Trinity; God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit enslave him. He goes further to imply that he can only be morally pure if God ravishes him. “Ravish” means forcing someone to have sex with you; one wonders how this can make anyone morally pure.
Finally, the poet uses the twisted poetical words to pass a particular idea to the audience. The idea is that God is all powerful, and a relationship with him requires one to be morally clean and pure. The poet seems to believe that for one to attain moral pureness by God, they need to be completely torn apart and reassembled. John Donne is a poet with a split personality concerning “religious spirituality” and sensual lusts for earthly life. One can draw this conclusion from the mostly different lyrics in his supernatural love poems and his religious works.
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